Maine chef puts Monson on the map

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:39 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - “Now everybody knows where my town of 670 residents, now we have 671,” said Marilou Ranta.

On Monday night, Monson, Maine got some national attention!

Last fall, we met Marilou Ranta, known as Lulu, owner and chef of The Quarry.

She’s been feeding folks at The Quarry for years, but Monday she was presented with the James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality at a ceremony in Chicago.

“The James Beard Award is like the ‘Oscar’ of the food industry and hospitality. And we never really talked about it in the restaurant because for me personally, I thought that’s for people in the big city and the elite chefs, I’m just the cook,” Ranta said.

Ranta has been cooking and caring for people for most of her life, starting as a maid in the Philippines. She brings her experiences from overseas and in the U.S. into her approach.

“I met my husband, who grew up in Maine, [and he] brought me here and I love it, the town, and everybody here welcomed me like I’m their own. Also, my culture in the Philippines is like, our guests come first. Everybody’s treated the same. They’re all big VIPs at my restaurant we aim for is like, it is actually like the extension of my home. I take care of our guests, me and my crew, you know that they’re coming to our home,” Ranta said.

After years of cooking in Monson, she went to culinary school, then landed a chef position with the Libra Foundation cooking for artists and the restaurant developed from there.

Now, as James Beard Foundation Award winner, she hopes to help others find success.

“I would love to inspire other people keep dreaming because you never know who’s watching. I mean, I was 47 years old when I enrolled in culinary school, and so I never gave up. You’re never too old to follow your dreams,” Ranta said.

As she anticipates an uptick in reservations and restaurant traffic, Lulu is just happy to have people to come eat and visit with her.

“The James Beard Award is like the really the cherry on top of my ice cream, but I really have the ice cream when I open the restaurant,” said Ranta.

For more information about The Quarry, you can check out their Facebook page.